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Venus, Seles Advance at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK (AP) — Showing off the game that took her to four consecutive titles, including Wimbledon, Venus Williams easily swept into the third round of the U.S. Open on Wednesday.

With her high-power game in gear, the third-seeded Williams rolled past Kveta Hrdlickova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-1 in just 48 minutes.

``The first match I didn't play very well,'' Williams admitted. ``This match I played much better, served much better.''

Hrdlickova knows only too well.

Williams had nine aces among her 29 winners, while her aggressive game also produced 23 unforced errors. Hrdlickova had only two winners along with 11 unforced errors, but the match didn't depend on what she did. ``The mistakes I make depend on how the match goes,'' Williams said.

In other early matches, sixth-seeded Monica Seles downed Anne Kremer 6-3, 6-4; No. 11 Sandrine Testud stopped Iroda Tulyaganova 6-4, 6-3 and Chanda Rubin beat Barbara Schett 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 in women's second-round matches. In a men's first-round battle, Greg Rusedski had an easy time getting past Magnus Gustafsson 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

A year ago, on the grass at Eastbourne, Kremer beat Seles in straight sets in their first and only meeting. Seles returned the favor Wednesday.

Seles, a two-time Open champion making her 10th appearance at this Grand Slam event, continued her streak of making it to the third round or better here. Seeded sixth, she needed 1 hour, 9 minutes to finish Kremer.

Coming off a loss to Williams in the final at New Haven in the warmup for the Open, Seles displayed an efficient all-court game against Kremer. She had three aces and converted three of eight break-point opportunities, while Kremer capitalized on just one of five.

``She doesn't make mistakes and she loves pace,'' Seles said of Kremer. ``I knew it would be tough. At key times, I was able to raise my game.''

On Tuesday night, Patrick Rafter was back in the spotlight in Arthur Ashe Stadium with his high-kicking serve, crisp volleys and bouncing ponytail. It was just the place and time for Galo Blanco to shine.

As Tuesday turned into Wednesday, Blanco rallied from a 2-4 deficit in the fifth-set tiebreak to eliminate the two-time U.S. Open champion 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (5).

Although Rafter was unseeded for the first time since 1996 and just recovering from shoulder injury, he was considered a threat to win the year's final Grand Slam tournament. The threat was wiped out in three hours, two minutes by a Spaniard who has had problems winning on any surface this year.

The 23-year-old Blanco had lost in the first round in 13 of his 16 previous Grand Slam tournaments. In his best performance in a major, he reached the quarterfinals of the 1997 French Open where he bumped into Rafter and lost in straight sets.

``That was my most important match in my life,'' Blanco said early Wednesday morning. ``So I beat him here in this tournament, and he beat me there in my tournament. That's life.''

Rafter's dismissal ended a long day that also saw the shocking loss of second-seeded Gustavo Kuerten, the reigning French Open king. He was booted by Wayne Arthurs, an Australian left-hander known more for his doubles play, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1).

In the women's singles, Miriam Oremans of the Netherlands ousted 16th-seeded Julie Halard-Decugis 6-3, 6-4.

All the other seeded players made it safely to the second round Tuesday, including defending women's champion Serena Williams, 1998 U.S. Open winner Lindsay Davenport, French Open women's winner Mary Pierce, No. 7 Conchita Martinez, No. 10 Anke Huber, No. 12 Anna Kournikova and No. 14 Dominique Van Roost.

Rafter, 27, reached the final at Wimbledon, losing to Sampras, last month. He was considered the most dangerous floater in the men's draw.

``We both fought very hard out there,'' Rafter said. ``I'm happy with the way I fought, and I tried to win. Some days it just doesn't go your way. Tonight was one of those. He put in a good performance there. Just too good on the night.''

Kuerten became only the second No. 2 seed to lose in the first round of the U.S. Open since 1956, when the present system of seedings started. The only other time it happened was in 1994, when second-seeded Goran Ivanisevic was ousted in his opener.

Arthurs, a qualifier, pounded out 26 aces, the final one a 134-mph blazer on match point. Told that Kuerten was one of the favorites to win this tournament, Arthurs said, ``Not any more.''

Ivanisevic, who may have played his last match in Flushing Meadows, was booed when he finished his match against Dominik Hrbaty on an outside court. Three times a runner-up at Wimbledon, Ivanisevic won the first set, then only one more game as he lost 3-6, 6-0, 6-1, 6-0.

``I'm undecided to play anymore this year,'' Ivanisevi

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